Distance: 1 miles
Elevation gain: 1300'
Class (difficulty): 5.8
Time: 6 hours
After a failed attempt on Mount Regan, I wasn't sure rock climbing was my cup of tea. I got a bit nervous, and in over my head I thought. John Platt led the Regan climb and convinced me I could enjoy and successfully complete a high rated and longer climb of Slick Rock near McCall because he knew that route so well and it was straight rope climb with a walk off finish versus the traversing and downclimbing we had done on Regan. After some convincing, I decided I would go for it. So during a nice streak of fall weather, where the temps had cooled down and the air had cleared out persistently smoky skies, we headed out.
We departed my house at 7am with fairly minimal gear for what would be my most challenging climb to date. We arrived at the trailhead 3 hours later and there were no excuses that could get me out of this now, as the sky was perfectly blue and the rock was right there. After a 10 minute walk to the base of the peak, we put on our harnesses, helmets, and rock shoes.
We chose to do the normal route on Slick Rock, which is rated 5.6 and is about 8-10 pitches long. John leaves the second crack early and takes a detour onto the face. Other than that, he sticks with the known route. Based on the book definition, I thought to myself that was a 5.8 section. When I asked John afterward, he remarked it was probably 5.8 (without me saying that was my estimation). So I will go with the 5.8 rating.
The layback moves on the first pitch were very cool, but the runout at the end of the pitch was nerving for me because the granite had little to offer for holds. It took me a minute to realize that those little ridges in the rock would be enough to use as hand and foot holds on this lower angled section. The next pitches were easy and led us to the 1st of 3 large cracks. By the time we had reached that pitch I thought I was doing much better at moving quickly, pulling out pieces of protection quickly, getting setup at the belay station in a coordinated and timely manner, etc... compared to the first pitch and the climbing we had done on Regan at least. I still was wondering what the heck I was doing here and having a few difficulties where we had to friction climb.
We attacked the second crack in two sections to get back into the normal "groove" of the climb and utilize the same belay stations John had used in the past. So we had a short and easy section that got us deep into the crack. We then faced the crux of the climb in the middle to upper section of the 2nd crack when we traversed around a chockstone that blocks the crack and went out onto the face. I agonized about the first move, because it meant lifting a foot out of the crack, which was several feet deep at this point, and placing all of your weight onto a smooth granite wall while pushing the rest of your body up and out of the crack without any holds to speak of. After some cursing up to John (and some "you can do it" comments in return), I finally went for it and was suprised how quickly that section was over with and I was back into the crack. The crack really steepened at that point and I reached the spot where John really jammed his foot in the rock and went through some work to get it un-jammed. So of course, I jammed mine in the same spot but was able to get it out easier than John. Some creative jamming and stemming got me through this section and to the base of the 3rd crack.
The 3rd crack was easier, but still challenging. I greatly appreciated the nubs or lips in the rock after the difficult moves in the 2nd crack. The next pitch after the crack had a tricky rock that blocked the route, where we had to undercling around the rock to get to the side of it and progress to the top. If I had done these moves at the start of the climb, I would have thought they were very hard, but that had handholds and footholds, so that alone made them reasonable.
A final pitch of 50 feet or so put us on the summit. After some celebration by me and pictures of the surrounding peaks, we drank the last of our limited water, switched out of climbing gear, and headed for the 2nd class gully that would get us to the base of the rock.
I could finally relax and enjoy the perfect weather and fall scenery. On the way home we stopped by John's father's house south of McCall and had an excellent dinner, listened to great stories, and took in wonderful views from his nicely situated house. It was a great end to a exciting day, that turned out perfect (all that worrying for nothing!). Big thanks to John for the ride, climbing tips, use of equipment, talking me into the trip, and everything else!
From the road, cross Lake Fork Creek and go to the bottom of the rock cliff. For detailed instruction on the climb, go here.
Once you reach McCall, turn right onto RAILROAD AVE. Go 0.3 miles. Turn LEFT onto ROOSEVELT AVE / NF-48. Shortly afterward, turn RIGHT onto HEMLOCK ST. Then shortly after that, turn LEFT onto DAVIS AVE. Turn RIGHT onto LICK CREEK RD / NF-48. Continue to follow NF-48. The pavement eventually ends. Stop around 7.5 miles out of town when you can view the rock wall and see a small turnout on the left hand side of the road.